In the lead up to an election political misinformation and disinformation are widespread online. What advice can we give young people – soon to be voters – about accessing reliable information? These tips will help equip them – and all of us – to make informed decisions. 

  1. Find the source
    Don’t trust something just because it came via a friend or lots of people are talking about it. Find out where it came from. No source? Be sceptical!
  2. Run a background check
    Unfamiliar source? Do a background check by searching up one or all of the following:
    – Name of website / organisation / author + About
    – Name of website / organisation / author + Wikipedia
    – Search for the website / organisation / author using the ‘News’ tab
  3. Read the story – to the end
    Does the headline match the content? Is it exaggerated or taken out of context? Headlines are often overstated to get more clicks. Read or watch the story/video all the way through for a fuller picture.
  4. Check the facts
    Add the words “fact check” to a keyword search to see if any reputable fact-checking organisations have already checked a story. Full Fact, BBC Reality Check, Channel 4 FactCheck and Snopes use robust checking processes.
  5. Watch your emotions
    What gets the most reactions, comments and shares online? It’s often posts that trigger outrage – regardless of whether or not they are true. Watch out for alarming words, emotive language or name-calling. Pause before you share that blood-boiling post. Ask yourself: who is trying to make me feel this way – and why?
  6. Get the other side(s) of the story
    Compare how the same story is reported by media with different political leanings – and those that strive for impartiality. You’ll see how things can be framed in various ways, as well as gaining a wider perspective.
  7. Avoid biased sources
    Extreme viewpoints tend to be misleading. A Canadian study found that “strong partisans” across the political spectrum gave twice as many factually incorrect answers about current events as non-partisans.
  8. More is not always better
    Don’t read/view indiscriminately, be discerning in your media choices. Consuming news regardless of the source makes people more susceptible to being misinformed.
  9. Know your misleading media
    Deceptive media isn’t always factually incorrect, sometimes it paints a slanted picture or makes a false connection. Use Mediabiasfactcheck.org or NewsGuardQuickly to identify bias, satire, pseudoscience and other misleading sources.
  10. Reverse image search
    Most misleading images online are NOT digitally doctored or deep fakes: they are real images with false captions. Use TinEye or Google reverse image search to find the original context.
  11. Make deliberate media choices
    Don’t rely on what shows up in your feed – algorithms prioritise what’s popular over what’s accurate. Find and follow sources that value fairness and accuracy, those genuinely trying to get to the truth.

Download this Tipsheet and Checking Activity to use in your classroom.

Read next…

11 Ideas to Save Democracy in the Digital Age

Digital Literacy and the School Curriculum.

Watch next…

Our co-founder, Shelley Metcalfe spoke recently at TEDx Macclesfield about the cost of careless clicks, how we are all part of the problem and what we can do about it.  Watch the talk here.

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels.